Day of the Dead is very beautiful and inspiring Mexican holiday. We’ll create a female portrait using different methods and techniques for a great result. You can use this tutorial as a reference for your own picture.
If you're interested in buying a graphic, vector, or template (to complement your work on the tutorial), there's a useful collection of Day of the Dead items on GraphicRiver.
1. Make a Sketch
At the beginning let's draw a schematic sketch, and we’ll add the details later. We’ll use the attributes inherent to this holiday: we’ll decorate the hairstyle with Mexican marigolds, we’ll use traditional jewelry and ornaments, and we’ll create the Calavera's makeup.
Create a New document, 600 x 850 px, RGB. Then File > Place your sketch in Adobe Illustrator. Change the layer name to "sketch". In the Layer Options choose Template, and change Dim Images to 50%.
2. Create a Brush for the Contour
Create a New Layer for the lines. For a convenient work process, we’ll use two types of layers for each group of objects: line and shape.
Let’s create a New Art Brush. Make a black ellipse 100 x 2 px using the Ellipse Tool (L) with 100% fill and without stroke. Drag it to the Brushes panel and go to New Brush > New Art Brush. Press OK, and choose the Tints method.
Start drawing the contour of the eyes. Draw smooth lines following the sketch. Change the Weight of the stroke to 0.25 pt for the eyelashes and folds of skin under the eyes.
Select the eye using the Selection Tool (V), and press Control-C and Control-F. Then choose Flip Horizontal on the Transform panel. Drag this reflected eye using the Selection Tool (V), pressing the Shift button.
At this stage, the eyes look crossed. Select and align the iris with the pupil of the eyes using the left-right buttons. Also change the order of the eyelashes and add some folds of skin under the eyes.
Draw the nose and lips, the line of the face and neck this way. First draw the right part, then flip it horizontally. Don’t draw the eyebrows; they will be hidden by the Calavera's makeup.
Add a New Layer for the flowers. Start drawing the petals from the flower’s middle to the edge. In the end diversify them with the buds and leaves.
Next let’s start to design the earrings. Draw two ellipse shapes, and then cut unnecessary pieces using the Scissors Tool (C) and delete them.
We’ll draw the shape of the crescent with the holes for the beads this way. Add additional lines for the thickness of the earring.
Now draw the beads and attach them to the crescent.
Select the entire earring, copy and flip it horizontally. Place it in the appropriate position on the right side, and change the beads' positions.
Let’s start forming the hairstyle. Create a New Layer between the “face_line” and “earring_line” layers. For convenience, we’ll change the color of the brush. So we'll distinguish the hair lines and other objects.
Start drawing from the top part bit by bit moving
down. First make just the main lines, and then add the details.
Here’s how the picture looks now.
3. Create the Main Shapes
Now we need to create the swatch of the main colors. Basically we’ll choose bright colors for all shapes and a pale color for the skin.
Start painting the main shapes following the brush contour. You can use the Pencil Tool (N) or the Pen Tool (P) for your convenience.
the layers as shown in the screenshot below.
Now we need to repaint the contours for each of the objects in the appropriate colors. Choose a darker shade for the lines compared to the main color of the shapes. The exceptions are the flowers and hair. Fill the outer edge of the petals with orange color and the lower lashes with red. Delete the stroke from the pupil of the eye.
Let’s repaint the contours of the hair. Select one of the lines and go to Select > Same > Stroke Color, and then to Object > Expand Appearance.
Open the Pathfinder panel and click Unite, holding the Alt button. Then press
Now fill the hair with the linear gradient from navy blue to bordeaux.
here's what we've got at this stage.
4. Create the Calavera's Makeup
Create a New Layer for the makeup’s contour over the layer “face_line”. Make the following layers with shapes invisible: eyes and lips, face and neck, background.
Choose your Art Brush and change its Weight to 0.75 pt on the Stroke
panel. Now start to draw the contour of the makeup following the sketch. During
the process we can add additional details. First draw one side of the makeup, and then flip it horizontally for the other side.
Create a New Layer for the makeup’s shapes over the layer “eyes-lips_shape”. Choose the colors and create the main shapes following the brush contour.
Now go to the layer “face_line” and delete the lines of the nose and the middle part of the lips.
Let’s repaint the contours of the makeup. Select the lines and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Fill them with darker shades compared to the main colors of the shapes.
Expand and color the
rest of the lines in conformity with the makeup. You can see the final result
on the right side of the face in the screenshot.
Finalize the left side of the makeup.
The main part of the drawing is
done. Here is how the image looks now.
5. Add Shadows and Highlights
First let’s add some volume to the eyes. Start with the white of the eye, filling it with a light blue tint. Draw some dark blue shapes under the eyelashes and lay them one on top of the other, reducing the Opacity to 10-20%.
Next draw a pink strip on the eyelid margin, and add
some shadows and highlights. Add some gloss to the white of the eye too.
Now we get to the iris of the eye. Create two ellipses behind the pupil of the eye, and fill them with brown and orange color. Choose the darker color for the top of the iris and lighter for the underside. Add some bright twinkles.
Let’s add a bright highlight to the black area and red line. Add volume to the eyelashes too.
Now copy these new details and flip them horizontally. The exceptions are the iris and the pupil with twinkles—just copy and move them holding the Alt button.
Now we'll get to work on the lips. The upper part of the lips is shaded, so make it darker. Add some shadows and highlights as shown below. Use Opacity to make the surface smoother.
It’s time to add some volume to the face and neck. We'll draw the blush first. Choose a pink color and add the shapes of the blush to the cheeks and neck. Select them and go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. On the Transparency panel, reduce the Opacity to 40%.
Now add some shadows. Choose the color of the face’s contour, and reduce the Opacity to 15%. We'll draw the basic shapes on the area where shadows usually appear.
Then we’ll draw the volume following these basic shapes. Lay the shapes one on top of the other till you get the desired result. Change the Opacity of the shapes during the process. Draw the same shadows on the neck too.
Choose a darker color and draw the falling shadows, using 14% Opacity.
Now add reflections from the background. Select the background blue color, reduce the Opacity to 5%. Draw some shapes on the cheekbones and neck. Add some reflections under the nose too.
Then choose a darker blue color and draw falling shadows from the hairs, leaves and earrings. Vary the Opacity from 10% to 30%.
Choose the red-brown color and draw the shadows on the bottom part of the neck.
Let’s add some highlights to the face. Starting from the base skin color, select the lighter tint, and reduce the Opacity to 20%. Draw the shapes on the forehead, nose and chin, and over the lips too.
Now choose the cyan color and draw highlights on the cheekbones and the corners of the lips. Reduce the Opacity to 20% too.
In the end let’s add some bright twinkles to the bottom part of the nose and the area over the lips. To make the skin look more natural, add some light moles.
Here is how it all looks now.
It’s time to add some volume to the Calavera's makeup. We'll work on the "makeup_shape" layer. Let’s start from the darkest parts of the makeup. Choose the dark blue color of the contour, and reduce the Opacity to 30%. We'll draw the shapes on the area where shadows usually appear.
Draw the shadows following these base shapes, changing the Opacity during the process.
Now choose the black color with 30-40% Opacity and draw some falling shadows. Change the contour color of the nostrils to black.
Let’s add some highlights to the lightest area. Choose the blue color from the background, and add shapes with 3% Opacity.
Now draw some cyan reflections on the inner corners of the eyes and around the nostrils, varying the Opacity from 10% to 20%. Add the bright hotspot on the tip of the nose. Also draw the dark red shape on the area around the nostrils.
We’ll draw the volume of the rest of the makeup using the same principles. You can see the result below.
Let’s add some cyan reflections on the iris and the white of the eye. Add a little of them to the lips too.
Create a New Layer over the layer “makeup_line”. Draw the shapes of the highlights on the lightest area. Take an almost white color with 10% Opacity, Blending Mode: Overlay.
Let’s draw the final touches on the makeup. Add some highlights and shadows to the black pattern on the lips.
Well, let’s draw the flowers. First add the base color, then draw the dark shadows and fallen shadows, highlights and gloss. Use the same principles as shown in the screenshot.
Create a New Layer over the layer “flowers_line”. Add some highlights to the petals near the face, and draw the shadows on the outside petals. Use an almost white color for the highlights and dark blue for the shadows. Reduce the Opacity to 10% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay too.
Draw the volume on the leaves and buds in the same way.
We should get this result.
It’s time to add some highlights and shadows to the earrings. Let’s start with the golden part of them.
Now add some volume to the beads. Try to draw each of the beads separately, paying attention to the reflections between them.
In the end, add some gloss to the lightest area using the yellow brush.
Let's add some volume to the ribbon of the hairstyle. The method of painting is the same: dark shades, fallen shadows, highlights and gloss.
Now let’s draw some shadows on the shawl. Make a smooth transition from the red color to the dark, playing around with the Opacity. The darkest shade will be on the bottom of the image. We don’t need highlights there, so just draw some blue reflections from the background.
Finally, it’s time to improve the hairstyle. Don’t draw the volume thoroughly, because most objects are very bright on the image. Just make the hairs neutral.
Let’s draw shapes on
the lightest area, then select them and press Unite on the Pathfinder panel.
Now fill this shape with the linear gradient from the hair
contour, and reduce the Opacity to 40%. Repeat this process, drawing smaller shapes with 60% Opacity.
Open the layer “hair_back”. Select the main shapes, and press Control-C and Control-F. Fill them with the same linear gradient from the hair contour, and reduce the Opacity to 60%. Also add some black falling shadows from the flowers.
Let’s draw some blue shapes on the back part of the hairstyle. Choose the background color, reduce the Opacity to 40% and draw the reflections. Then add some cyan shapes with 20% Opacity.
Draw the blue reflections on the front part of the hairstyle the same way. The brighter color should be on the edges of the image, so reduce the Opacity bit by bit going to the middle.
6. It's Time for the Final Touches
Let’s add some necessary details. Start with the background. Choose the dark blue color with 20% Opacity, and lay them one on top of the other around the hairstyle. Then choose a color darker than previous and draw some shapes on the edge of the hair. In the end, use the darkest color for the shadows and a bright blue for the highlights. Reduce the Opacity to 20% too.
Let’s create a pattern brush for the decoration of the shawl. Draw a shape and create a New Pattern Brush as shown below.
Now choose the brush and draw lines to decorate our shawl. Then select these lines and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Delete unnecessary elements using the Eraser Tool (Shift-E). Then move this pattern behind all the shadows by pressing Control-Shift-[. In the end, add some blue reflections to the pattern.
Let’s add a few thin hairs to the hairstyle. First, create a New Layer over the layer “earrings_line”. This will make it look more natural. Draw some hairs on the edge of the hairstyle, and reduce the Weight of the stroke from 0.75 pt to 0.25 pt. Then select these hairs, expand and unite them. Fill the shape you’ve got with the gradient from the base lines.
Let’s add some falling petals to the foreground to make our portrait more special and lively. Draw various sizes of petals randomly, and then add volume to them using the same steps as on the flowers.
In the end, add some shadows to the lower petals and some blue highlights to the upper.
Let’s take a fresh look at our work and make some edits if needed. In my case, I noticed that the shadows on the eyes and neck were too light. So I drew some shapes with the dark blue color, 10% Opacity and Overlay blending mode until I got the desired result.
Great Job! We’re Done!
Our portrait for the Day of the Dead is ready! It was a complicated process, but I hope the final result meets your expectations. Thank you for creating with me!
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